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How to overcome your children’s misgivings about your new relationship

Amanda Angus / 02 March 2016

You’ve met someone! All should be rosy – but it’s not, because your adult children are decidedly not on board. Here's how to cope...

An adult child dislikes her new stepmother
An adult child isn't happy with her new stepmother

You’ve met someone; you’re falling for them and they’re falling for you. All should be rosy as you enjoy the honeymoon period that every new relationship goes through – but it’s not, because your adult children are decidedly not on board. Or perhaps your new beau’s family hasn’t taken to you as you’d hoped they would; either situation is awkward and will need resolving in order for you and your sweetheart to move forward. Here are our tips on how you can do exactly that.

Listen to your children

What is it that your children don’t like? Do they feel it’s too soon after your late spouse - and their beloved parent - died? If so then be mindful of the fact that whilst you are able to move on and find new love (and good for you), they will never get their parent back, and no one will ever come close to replacing them. If this is the case, then be discreet as your relationship blossoms, to give them time to adjust. Tell them you understand why they’re upset, that you don’t expect anyone to take their parent’s place, but that you need to find happiness again.

Is it that the newcomer is the polar opposite to your previous spouse, and they can’t understand why you could be attracted to someone so different? They might feel hurt by the thought that perhaps in truth, their parent was never who you really wanted. If so, explain all the reasons why you fell for their parent, and why you now need something else. It could be that the lack of similarity to your last relationship stops you comparing your new love negatively, especially if you were widowed.

And don’t let your rose-coloured spectacles blind you. Listening to your children’s misgivings is worth doing because ultimately, they are likely to have your best interests at heart. Have they seen a side of your partner that you are trying to ignore? Don’t just dismiss anything they flag up – consider it carefully, and if you still feel that they’re being unreasonable, calmly tell them why.

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If you are the new step-parent

If you’re finding love later in life, you will probably be entering into a step-relationship with people who don’t need parenting anymore, so don’t try to. Any interference from you into their family dynamic will likely not be received well, so take a back seat in any family discussions.

Remember that you have a choice in whether you stay in the relationship or leave, but they don’t. This imbalance in power is always worth bearing in mind whenever you feel that tensions are rising; if you can, step away and let them resolve issues as a family.

Be kind, welcoming and polite – but don’t over-do it. Laying on compliments too thickly can seem disingenuous, and achieve the opposite effect to that for which you’re aiming. Equally, being overgenerous with gifts can make the recipient feel like you’re trying to buy their affections. If it’s in your nature to be effusive with compliments and presents, then don’t try to change – just try to keep your giving nature in check a little.

10 tips for new stepparents

If it absolutely cannot be resolved

You’ve tried everything, but their opinions of you or your other half simply won’t change. Sadly, this is a very real possibility when it comes to merging families. They may never get over the perceived rejection of their other parent, and if this is the case, you will just have to accept it and shape your behaviour accordingly. Don’t consider preventing your new love from seeing their children, or if it’s your children, don’t insist they accept you as a couple or not at all; this will only create bad feeling that won’t ever really fade.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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